illnesses

Ditty Wins Opening Doubles Match at US Open

With a new coach and training base, American Julie Ditty believes her best tennis still to come.

Playing with Liga Dekmeijere of Latvia, the duo reeled off six consecutive games and held the lead for the entire match as they advanced into the second round of the US Open, defeating the team of American Meghann Shaughnessy and Alicia Molik of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

“I think Liga and I are a good pair on the court,” said Ditty. “Because I’m left-handed, it helps to play with a right-handed player. I like to set up the points up more for my partner, and she can be aggressive with her shots.”

Dekmeijere and Ditty were playing against a team who are both coming back from long-standing injuries and illnesses, but who have both reached the top 5 in the doubles rankings. Molik is also a two-time Grand Slam winner in doubles (at the Australian Open in 2005 and Roland Garros in 2007).

“It helped me to talk to people who saw them play their match last week in New Haven,” said Dekmeijere. “Of course, I’m focused on my game, but I needed to know some pointers, and what their strengths or weaknesses were.”

After breaking Molik’s serve while leading 3-2, Ditty served for the set at 5-3, only to have her seen broken with a Shaughnessy forehand that clipped the line. In the tiebreak, two overhead winners by Dekmeijere sent the American-Latvian pair up an early minibreak. On their first set point while leading 6-4, a forehand volley winner by Ditty gave the pair the opening set.

Molik held serve in a 9 deuce game to start the second set, but it was the last game the American-Australian duo would win in the match. Finding the range on their ground strokes and volleys, Dekmeijere and Ditty never faced another game point for the rest of the match, as a mistimed forehand by Shaughnessy sealed the match.

Although she has struggled on the singles court in 2009, Ditty has been producing the best doubles result of her career and currently sits at a career high ranking of No. 66. She reached the semifinals in doubles at a WTA event in Auckland and won a round in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the latter with Dekmeijere. The highlight of her year came during Fed Cup in February, where she helped the US win the final match of their first round tie against Argentina, playing an instrumental role in helping the US Fed Cup team reach the finals this year.

“I still feel like things are getting better and still feel like I’m working towards something,” said Ditty.

Part of Ditty’s improved attitude can largely be attributed to her new coaching situation. Having traveled alone for most of the year, Ditty recently started traveling with a new coach, Carlos Drada. After playing more tournaments than almost anyone on tour last year (36) and spending time training in different cities including Seattle and San Francisco, Ditty moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at the beginning of August and intends to make the city her new base.

“I’m so much happier now,” said Ditty. “I have a great coach and Lexington is really close to my family. It’s great to have everything that I need right there.”

Ditty and Dekmeijere await the winner of a first round doubles between Lucie Safarova and Galina Voskoboeva, and the No. 12 seeds, Vania King and Monica Niculescu.